Father Nature Landscapes owner and designer Daniel McCurry shares a few of his favorite projects that help set the mood for entertaining, while offering his best advice for creating your own backyard getaway.
“When I was a child, our outdoor dining area was just a simple table with a bench and chairs to fit our family and a few friends,” Daniel says. He remembers gathering with everyone after dinners in comfortable seating around a chimenea. “Outdoor living areas are defined by their features and function,” he says. “I have seen a mulch terrace join people together in the same way a terrace made of material at $100 a square foot does. It all depends on how well it is planned.”
“Growing up, the grill was located just outside the back door, close to the indoor kitchen. That way, my dad was more likely to use it after a long day at work,” says Daniel. Today, his favorite features for an outdoor kitchen include a simple gas grill, a ceramic grill (he prefers Primo), and a pizza oven.
“Lighting brings mood, protection, and focus to a garden,” Daniel says. “It guides views and highlights features and plantings, much like lighting a piece of sculpture.” He uses wash lights to illuminate pathways in a soft glow. “I also love a well-placed pendant or lantern hanging over an intimate pathway,” he adds. “For something more unique, we use inset core lighting to illuminate a home’s walls and patios.” Lighting up pools and fountains is also important. “You need to think about outdoor lighting as early as possible in the design process,” Daniel says. “You have to build it into the hardscape.”
“The putting greens we have installed make my heart melt when I think of how they’ve changed a few particular clients’ lives,” Daniel says. “They are like a magnet that brings people closer together. The greens are the perfect playground for a large family, as well as for smaller groups.” He suggests adding sports lighting to keep the putting tournaments going into the evening.
Another key gathering spot? Firepits. “They provide warmth and aesthetic beauty,” says Daniel. “And who doesn’t love the movement of a fire?” Wood-burning firepits require more involvement and attention, Daniel admits, but some people enjoy the process and the scent of real wood. Firepits with gas or a gas starter are quicker, cleaner, and easier. Think fireballs, synthetic logs, or a lava-type gravel. Daniel recommends firepits from Montana Fire Pits and Restoration Hardware.
As a second-generation Lebanese American, Daniel McCurry says he learned early on that spending time together was key to keeping his family close. Now his projects include spaces designed to help facilitate gatherings and get-togethers for others.